Sunday, January 13, 2008
You Can't Fall Off a Mountain
This is one of my favorite lines in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. It is what follows Ray's unintentioned but solid engagement of Zen satori in the material world, his sudden enlightenment to the lightness of life, the experiential affirmation of a world bound by chi, the static cling binding the universe together.
Ray experiences his enlightenment like a fisherman suddenly realizing he has a catch. It is the moment of the realization that there is suddenly a fish on the other end of a line, a line that had until that point (having been undisturbed for hours)been believed to have assumed that reality: a lifeless line. It is a moment in which one is forcefully ripped out of their existence and put into a new one, like a man retiring an old suit for a new one. It takes some getting used to,of course. But in the end it's better to move onto a new suit. If you continue to wear the only one you have, it's just a matter of time before it starts to look pretty shabby by comparison.
You cannot fall off a mountain. You can fall down a mountain. This happens when we're not paying attention and our foot missteps, and we bite it, sometimes bad (blood, broken bones, etc.). Moments escaping unrealized are like blood spurting from a neck wound; without attracting the same sense of urgency. When you see the power of what being in the moment (or no being in the moment) can do, and you realize the number of experiences that you can honestly say you have had in your life in which you have fully tuned into a frequency in which you are not projecting out into the past or future, but are subsisting jut one breath away from annihilation (or at least a full body cast) and have stayed in that state for more than a few minutes. Then you think about those rare people who seem to have tuned into this frequency and been able to live in it for more or less uninterrupted periods of time. Jesus said all that one had to do was have faith the size of a mustard seed in order to throw mountains into the sea. A mustard seed is very small. He used this particular seed to hammer home a point--if faith this small can send mountains hurling into the sea, think about the power of, say, a field of mustard seeds, or, even more, the ground which the mustard plant grows from. Then think about the fact that while we may put up fences and divide up land like we were carving up a sheet cake, the land, the earth, the Force is one, and undivided. And then think about the words coming from the mouth of the one man in history who could claim wholly uninterrupted oneness with that Force, and his benevolence to all people, when he said: "As the Father has loved me, so I love you" and those who knew him and could attest to his word claimed, "though all may forsake you, there is One who will never leave or forsake you; he loves you to the utmost."
If a hill can be thrown into the sea with faith which draws from one Source, and is a fraction of it, think of how powerful that One Source might be;
Now think of the man whose being came from the wholeness of this Source, and was this Source, and could not be separated from it, (and thus having the utmost credibility), and his affirming that it was a good Source, which never breaks promises and loves without condition;
And imagine him telling you that this Source, the Originator and the Destroyer of all that is, is so completely enamored with you, so completely in love with you, that he will never stop chasing you, even should he spend his last breath, with the hopes that you might spend even a moment with him...
Well, it gives a new appreciation and respect to those who do devote their lives to learning to always be in the moment (the only true non-illusory plane of existence), to learning how to love, to living constantly in the uncertainty of faith. They are not easy lives, the lifetimes spent trying to wake up to the fact that you can't fall off a mountain.